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nicholas bonham-carter

nicholas bonham-carter

Joined on November 24, 2007

Last Post on September 14, 2014

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not just a pretty face on the dance floor!

@ September 1, 2011 8:40 AM in Leaking Boiler Replacement Questions

you are so fortunate to have such an informed friend, and to have been able to learn yourself about steam heat with those excellent books!
the only sticky point to a do-it-yorself installation is threading the 3 in. pipes, as the threading machine will be pretty heavy; however carefull measurement can enable you to have it threaded by a pro. the drop-header could be 2 in, and those nipples are available pre-threaded. the drop-header is easier to fit for the novice.
by all means, calculate your edr, and post it here for confirmation.--nbc

worth 3 hrs labor?

@ September 1, 2011 8:26 AM in Corrosion on Peerless Boiler- Need a new boiler or not?

whoever will replace the sections, or even install a new boiler will have to dismantle the present boiler first, so why not let him open it up for an inspection.
do you know if the boiler capacity matches the radiation [edr]?
while doing this, compare the supply piping and return piping with peerless's instructions--it must follow them at a minimum!
assuming the piping, and the burner are correct, and in good condition, then i would replace all the sections, and let the rusty sheet metal stay as a grim reminder of the dangers of lack of maintenance, and the presence of an auto-fill left to it's own unsupervised devices.
when you fire up the new one, disconnect the auto-fill, as it will hide any other leaks in the system in the first few months of operation!--nbc

Replacing sections

@ August 30, 2011 1:34 PM in Corrosion on Peerless Boiler- Need a new boiler or not?

When I mentioned that possibility, I meant all the sections would have to be replaced at once. As I said it can save the frame, and burner (if they are any good). It can also grandfather you in on certain code restrictions.
High efficiency steam boilers are those which are correctly piped, and maintained, running on ounces of pressure, with ample main air vents, allowing the air to escape, at a back-pressure of a couple of ounces. Also with no leaks in the system, fresh water with excess oxygen is not being added to the boiler corroding it away.
Check your boiler room for anything containing chlorides as well to prevent early failure.--nbc

peerless corrosion

@ August 29, 2011 11:33 PM in Corrosion on Peerless Boiler- Need a new boiler or not?

replacement sections could be available, which would save the burners and frame.
when you repair or replace, try to find the cause of this corrosion. most likely, there is a steam or condensate leak, which has been masked by an auto-fill device on the boiler, which together with over-pressure may have caused the boiler to fill with a soup of carbonic acid.
i doubt if pre-existing gas boilers will have to be changed out solely because of emissions, which are the same regardless of basic efficiency as a mod-con [if the burner is properly maintained].
if it is 2-pipe, don't think you can convert to hot-water without re-piping and radiator replacement.--nbc

condensate tank

@ August 29, 2011 11:21 PM in condesate tank install

why is this tank needed? unless you have a long distance between 2 buildings with some height of return problems, there should be no need for any sort of tank to hold the return condensate. these tanks add a new level of energy use, and maintenance problems, so see if it can be removed rather than replaced!
generally, the reasons these tanks were installed is to compensate for some piping irregularity. check the existing piping [supply&return] against the mfg's piping diagram to see where the problem is.--nbc

upgrading multi-story steam system

@ August 26, 2011 12:48 PM in Steam options

if you have the wrong "expert" on this job he may think "upgrade" means "increase the steam pressure"! probably, 12 ounces would be a good maximum for this, with a low back-pressure for the venting phase.
as far as the 87% efficient boiler, you could make hot water with the flue gas, but it may be difficult to get a steam boiler "straight out of the box", with that sort of efficiency, which is usually associated with hot-water heat. in your case, you would need a hot-water boiler on every other floor because of the pressure of 14 floors of water. the efficiency soon gets depleted by the cost of running electric pumps.

orifices would be a good fit on this, but pay attention to how the air is allowed to escape so the steam can come in. mr gifford [the orifice expert] is a new yorker too, so you could meet him on his home ground.--nbc


@ August 18, 2011 11:26 PM in Help! Persistant Radiator Banging

Can you think of one improvement you have made which preceded the water-hammer problem? Could you have put a new air vent on that radiator?
I think that if you are going to check the valve for obstruction, then you will have to open the bonnet; however I do not think the problem is with the valve being blocked.
My guess is that in raising the radiator vent-end, a lateral feed pipe under the floor has become misaligned, and is thus not draining enough for the steam to go through.
What is your steam pressure settings on the pressure control?-nbc

i agree, the main venting is most important.

@ August 16, 2011 9:38 AM in spliting home steam

the air vents on the dry return of the mains do all the work of letting the air out as the steam is rising. you may have too much radiator venting in certain areas of your system, causing an imbalance in the distribution. the goal here is to have the steam "arrive" at each radiator simultaneously.
also, if your main vents are inadequate, you will be paying the fuel company to squeeze the air out of constipated little openings; instead of allowing the air to escape for free!
if you measure the lengths and diameters of the pipes, professor steamhead can advise you what size vents to install. even though, the vents you need may cost a "Grant" each, and may require several per return. they are not sold in "big box" stores, and are worth every penny! radiator vents cannot do this job, and in fact, if yours are too fast, may need to be replaced with the traditional hoffmans. the thermostatic air vents can be used after all the other items have been corrected, if they are still needed.
other factors in the balancing equation would include:
1.pressure too high-keep it under 1.5 psi [measured with a good low-pressure gauge]. this is for basic functionality, for comfort and economy, dial it down to 12 ounces.
2.thermostat location and anticipation.
3.steam piping and header correctness.
do the vents first, and then check the other factors. remember, when your house was built, the new owner would not have tolerated a system which was out of balance!!! there are some excellent steam books in the shop here which will guide you in reversing any deferred maintainace.--nbc

new boiler economy

@ August 11, 2011 8:38 AM in Am I getting burned

our replacement of a 1,050,000 btu. 1-pipe steam boiler resulted in 30 % less fuel cost [corrected for degree days]. this was mainly from:
1.lower pressure with a vaporstat [>12 ounces].
2.massive venting of the mains [air out at a back-pressure of 2 ounces].
3.insulating supply pipes.
4.correcting low spots in the main.
5.relocating/replacement of the thermostat.
6.not sending steam up the chimney!
also factor in that the average apartment temperature is now a few degrees warmer than before!--nbc

in your favor

@ August 11, 2011 8:26 AM in $12k annual heat bill? Is something wrong? what can be done?

you are lucky that the fuel costs have been so high, because all the "fixer-upper house-flippers" will offer much less of a purchase price, because they will have been erroneously told by your "regular heat guy" that the only solution is "replace with hot air".
you however, armed with knowledge from this site, and assisted by a real steam pro, will have the system working as it once did for much less. instead of spending 4 times the annual fuel cost on a replacement, you will probably spend a quarter of the annual cost-most on correction of deferred maintenance. when you get the project underway, post some pictures of the boiler piping, so you can get some advice on where to start.--nbc

what size to install

@ August 10, 2011 7:39 PM in Need help determining steam boiler size

this might be a good situation for a modulating burner, controlled by pressure, since there could be some question as to what size boiler to buy.--nbc

lower fuel bills

@ August 10, 2011 9:39 AM in $12k annual heat bill? Is something wrong? what can be done?

don't forget that the desire for lower heating costs is not a new one, and that when first installed, the steam system was regarded as one of the most efficient, and comfortable methods of heating available at that time [when properly maintained].
over the years of deferred maintenance, the venting has probably been allowed to plug up, the burner to get out of adjustment, and the building envelope to leak air. this is like any fixer-upper property. you are very lucky that you can do most of these things yourself, but so far have been unlucky in your choice of contractors [why is that?].
you will have to get the condition of the building closer to it's original mechanical/weather-stripping condition, and thus lower the cost of renting out the apartments. in addition, the level of comfort experienced by your tenants can be improved so that the rents can be raised.
we can help you get the steam system running as well as day one, and you can plug the air-leaks.
when you get along further, post some pictures of the boiler, and piping.--nbc

what can be done?

@ August 9, 2011 1:40 PM in $12k annual heat bill? Is something wrong? what can be done?

you could even without firing the burner, verify whether the boiler is grossly over-sized. you would need to make a list of the radiators and their edr, and make sure that the total of the radiation therefore matches the output of the boiler. the burner may or may not be able to be down-fired.
in addition, verify that the main [not rad] venting is adequate with big vents, like gorton #2's on the dry returns. if the venting is too small, then the fuel company has been paid to force the air out of the system.
finally talk to the occupants about their experience.--nbc

expensive "brownstone"

@ August 9, 2011 9:08 AM in $12k annual heat bill? Is something wrong? what can be done?

why don't you speak to the tenants and see what their experiences have been with the comfort of the heating system? ironically, some of the most wasteful and inefficient systems are very uncomfortable [too hot, then too cold]. have the occupants ever opened the windows in winter to combat overheating?
 one of your courses of action could be to switch to gas; but don't plan on a  conversion to hot water unless you want to replace all the rads and piping along with the boiler. the pressure of a new hot-water system could be just too high for the old pipes.
it's difficult in the summer to feel the effects of air infiltration, but can you look for obvious gaps, such as double hung windows which will not close properly?--nbc

mile-high steam problems

@ August 5, 2011 6:16 PM in Need help in Denver, Co

can you post some pictures of the boiler piping for us to see?
how is the air allowed to escape from the main pipes and boiler as steam is starting to rise?
if you order some of the steam books from the shop here, it would increase your understanding of steam systems in general, and make it easier to explain things to a contractor whose own knowlege of steam may be hazy.--nbc

below 6 oz.

@ August 5, 2011 6:10 PM in Need Modulating Vaporstat

can you replace the pressuretrol with a vaporstat. i think some of these modulating systems use 2 vaporstats-one to handle the transition from high flame to low, and the 2nd to cut the burner off completely if the pressure continues to rise even on low fire.
the 0-16 oz honeywell vaporstats would be right for you. --nbc

over-sized boiler

@ August 4, 2011 8:39 AM in Connected load calculation - a must for an NYC master plumber?

main venting is definitely needed, and even if a new boiler of correct size is installed, the top floor may freeze. thermostat location/anticipation is also important.
i would suggest doing another survey of your radiation [needed for the court case], and confirm just how far off you are in the capacity of the new boiler.
was there any mention in your contract with the "master plumber" of following the manufacturers instructions, or of industry standards? the steam books available in the shop here will also be of benefit in helping you present your case, or in convincing him that he has installed an unworkable system.
if you are going to take a little time to replace this, then get those main vents in! you may also need to put larger capacity radiator vents on one radiator at the top of each riser, so as to let the air out. as i said before, a good low-pressure gauge will show you when your main venting is adequate. if you measure the diameters, and lengths of the mains in the basement, venerable guru steamhead can tell you what sizes, and types of vents should be installed as a start.
you are correct that down-firing the burner must be done by an experienced burner man with a combustion analyser, however it can be successful in some cases. did you tell us whether you have oil or gas?--nbc

Steam installation standards NYC

@ August 3, 2011 11:18 PM in Connected load calculation - a must for an NYC master plumber?

The installation manual for the boiler, or the mfg's website should go into some detail about the importance of sizing the boiler to the connected load, or radiation.
What response has he made to your complaints?
Could the burner be down-fired?--nbc

oversized boiler

@ August 2, 2011 8:15 AM in Any market for a three year old boiler? If so, where?

it is certainly true that a steam boiler must be sized to the radiation in order to work properly, but even correctly sized boilers can short-cycle if the main venting is inadequate. have a 0-3 psi gauge put on alongside the code-required 0-30 psi gauge. during the initial firing cycle, the air will be allowed to escape from the pipes and boiler. if the venting is not adequate, the gauge will show a back-pressure higher than 2 ounces, which shows you that you are paying for extra fuel to force the air out, instead of allowing to escape with no restriction. hopefully, your new steam man will follow the piping diagram in the mfg's manual as a minimum.
as for the sale of the old boiler, why not try craigslist. how over-sized was it?--nbc

tearing apart the boiler

@ July 30, 2011 11:28 PM in block leaking?

when you tore it apart, could you see whether the leak was coming from between the sections, or was it from a central part of the section--hard to see what the pictures are showing.--nbc

heating changeover

@ July 30, 2011 8:06 PM in How much do I Sell Arco Cast Iron Radiators for?

at least the gas company should be happy with the increased fuel use of forced air over hydronic/steam!!-nbc

glass pipe area

@ July 30, 2011 1:28 PM in Flushing a Weil McLain Steam Heat Boiler

i am not sure that you have a float type low water cut-off,  and if that is the case, there is no need to drain off the water. more pictures would be useful.
the water in the boiler may have never been properly cleaned of oily surface residue [skimming], and this may be the cause of the banging [water-hammer]. unfortunately, as the oil is on the surface, it can only be removed from the surface by skimming. which could be done by you with some instructions from us.
your boiler should be capable of silence, and the original installer of the system long ago would have lost business once it became known that his systems could be heard at all!
i do notice that your silver main vents, which do all the work of letting air out as steam is rising; are to small and inadequate. this forces your fuel supplier to squeeeeeze the air out of their constipated little openings, with detriment to system efficiency and your wallet.
as rod has said, the pictures of the supply piping, and of the "honeywell pressuretrol" will enable us to diagnose the water-hammer problem. include the model number as well so we can see where the skimming port might be.--nbc